How NBA execs sees the top selection. http://m.espn.go.com/nba/story?storyId=9997952 Much appreciated!
During the 2013 NBA draft, fans and draft reporters alike sat waiting, wondering who the Cleveland Cavaliers would take with the No. 1 pick.
When Anthony Bennett's name was announced, an already odd draft got just a little odder. Six players had been mentioned as possible No. 1 picks. Nerlens Noel and Alex Len got the most publicity, but Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore and Bennett all had a shot.
It was the most wide-open draft I've ever been a part of and generated an enormous amount of both curiosity and angst in the days leading up to the draft.
This year, it was supposed to be easy.
Andrew Wiggins, the most hyped freshman to come into college basketball since Greg Oden and Kevin Durant in 2007, was to be quickly anointed as the next NBA superstar.
But a funny thing happened over the summer. More and more scouts started to hedge. Wiggins had yet to play a game. He wasn't doing anything particularly wrong (despite a few reports that he wasn't practicing or scrimmaging as hard as he could). What happened was Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and a little-known prospect from Australia, Dante Exum, all having the summers (and early falls) of their lives.
By tipoff night on Nov. 8, the unanimity surrounding Wiggins was waning. Minutes after the Champions Classic in Chicago on Nov. 12, the consensus was obliterated.
Now the hottest question in front offices around the NBA?
Who do you take No. 1?
Front offices faced a similar question in the past draft, but with a very different tone. In 2013, no one looked like a worthy No. 1 pick in the draft. This season, four players appear to be in strong consideration for that spot.
Over the past week, Insider talked to multiple scouts or executives from almost every team in the NBA in an effort to determine what they would do with the No. 1 pick. While most NBA scouts and GMs initially were inclined to take a wait-and-see attitude and use rankings like "1A" and "1B", I kept pressing. If the draft were held today (which thankfully it is not) who would go No. 1?
Here's what I learned:
1. Andrew Wiggins, SG, Fr., Kansas Jayhawks
Wiggins has been experiencing a backlash of sorts over the past few months. Reports that he was the third-best player in Kansas' practices combined with growing concerns that he might not have the killer drive or skill set to dominate right away began floating around. Typically, teams want a player with the No. 1 pick who can make an immediate impact on the floor. Was Wiggins really the guy?
He's really destabilized the doubters in his first three games for the Jayhawks. Not only does Wiggins look the part physically and athletically, his performance on the court has been absolutely stellar. Through Monday, Wiggins is averaging 19 PPG, 5.5 RPG and shooting 58 percent from the field.
While those numbers aren't as strong as those of Randle and Parker, there's more to it than meets the eye. Wiggins is playing a very controlled game on offense. He's scoring within the flow of the game and isn't trying to dominate the basketball. While Randle and Parker are clearly options 1, 2 and 3 offensively for Kentucky and Duke, respectively, Kansas coach Bill Self isn't running every play for Wiggins. In addition, Wiggins already has proved to be an athletic, lockdown defender who can guard multiple positions on the floor. Frankly, it's that part of his game that is tipping the scale toward Wiggins for many scouts.
"I think he can be a player that plays a lot like Paul George does," one veteran NBA executive told ESPN.com. "He's so smooth that at times it almost looks like he's coasting. But when you watch closer, you just see the game comes so easy to him. With his length and explosiveness, he's going to be able to do whatever he wants once he gets it. And from everything we can gather in looking into his background, he's going to get it. I'm not sure how we could pass on him if we had the No. 1 pick. The other guys might be more ready right now, but in three years, I think he's the best player in this class."
2. Julius Randle, PF, Fr., Kentucky Wildcats
Randle became Wiggins' strongest challenger this summer after scouts walked out of the Nike Hoop Summit and Kentucky practices blown away. Randle has kept the momentum going, averaging 20.5 points, 14.3 rebounds on 62 percent shooting in his first four games.
He's the prototypical NBA 4 -- blessed with size, strength, athleticism and an offensive arsenal of tools that allow him to score from anywhere on the floor. Combine that with Randle's amped-up demeanor and his demand to touch the ball every time down the floor and there's just so much to get excited about.
If you are looking for a player who can be both a low-post scorer and a stretch 4, I'm not sure a better big-man prospect has come along in years. He can be overly aggressive at times (and thus has a penchant for turnovers) but there's very little to criticize about his game other than the fact that in high school, he fell in love with his jump shot and too often stayed out of the paint. That really hasn't been a problem at Kentucky so far.
Besides, most GMs are pretty risk averse when it comes to drafting No. 1. Randle looks like such a sure thing ... how many GMs will stray away from safe?
"I think he's the surest thing in the draft," one GM said. "There's nothing he can't do and there just aren't that many bigs in the NBA with that set of skills. He's going to be a 10-time All-Star and will make a major impact on your team in Year 1. Wiggins might have a little more upside and [Parker] is so attractive as well, but if you take someone else, you're really risking your job."
3. Jabari Parker, SF, Fr., Duke University
As a junior, it was Parker who was supposed to be the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft. But an injury after his junior year combined with Wiggins having a stellar summer and reclassifying led to a bit of a Jabari fallout. Scouts questioned whether he had a position in the NBA. As he struggled to get back into shape, scouts wondered aloud if he had the athleticism to be an elite player. He led all U.S. scorers at the Nike Hoop Summit with 22 points, but was just 1-for-9 from 3.
Three weeks into the season, the bandwagon is starting to get really crowded again. Parker has just wowed, averaging 22.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG and shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and almost 67 percent from 3-point range in four games. His amazing 27-point performance against Kansas (especially that 19-point first half) caused the scouts in the NBA to rethink their position on Parker.
For starters, there isn't a player at his size in college basketball with his basketball IQ with the possible exception of Creighton's Doug McDermott. He plays like he could start at every position on the floor. He attacks the game with a quiet confidence, can score from everywhere, and now that he's finally healthy, he looks like he's more athletic than he's been given credit for.
"I absolutely love him," a different NBA GM said. "I love guys who just know how to play. Very few players at Jabari's age are so sophisticated about the game. You see how he's reading the floor and how he's thinking the game and you can't help but get excited. I remember when some guys were wringing their hands about Kevin Durant. Does he play defense? Is he an elite athlete? I just saw a killer out there who would do anything to win. I see that in Jabari. Some will worship Wiggins' athleticism. Some will pray to the altar of 'big' with Randle. But Parker's my guy and I don't see that changing."
4. Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Don't forget about Exum. This summer, he was the apple of every NBA scout's eye and was really the first guy to get buzz as a possible contender to Wiggins' hold on the No. 1 pick. It started with a stellar performance off the bench for the World Team at the Nike Hoop Summit and then carried over to a riveting performance in the FIBA Under-19 Championships.
What NBA scouts saw in Exum was a 6-foot-6 guard who could play the 1 and the 2 and seemingly had the perfect blend of athleticism and skill. He is very quick with the ball and gets to the rim pretty effortlessly. His jump shot is still a work in progress, but that might be the only real weakness in his game.
Unfortunately for Exum, he can't compete on the same stage with Wiggins, Randle and Parker. He's finishing up high school in Australia in December and after that he has some pretty big decisions to make. Sources say that Exum and his family are leaning strongly toward him skipping college and declaring for the 2014 draft. Whether he decides to play professionally in Australia or just start working out in preparation for the draft is still up in the air. Can he keep NBA scouts' attention if Wiggins, Randle and Parker keep putting on a show every night in college basketball?
1. Wiggins 2. Parker 3. Randle 4. Exum in my book
I haven't seen Exum play that much, but why is he so different than a guy like Alec Burks. It seems they have similar playstyles; same height and body type, both aren't the greatest of shooters, and both excel at driving to the lane and scoring.
I know Exum is probably a better passer and thus can play some PG, but what am I missing here?
I guess Burks and Exum are a little similar, the biggest differences being effort and basketball IQ. Burks' shot selection is really poor, too.
I really wish Exum would come to the states so that he won't end up a bust. I've watched him play since he was an sophomore and I think scouts labeling him an point guard will hurt him in the long run. He's an SG who played the point at the Adidas nationals because he was the teams best ball handler. His vision is avenge at best and often times he hunts his own shot.I Still think he's an good prospect just overrated and should go somewhere between 10-20 instead of top 5 where he's projected.
I am not sure what to think of Exum, never having seen him play, but if he is in the same class as Wiggins, Parker and Randle then he must be pretty damn good. I also think Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh are fantastic prospects.
With all the freshmen hype, I have barely heard anyone mention Marcus Smart......
Oops i spoke too soon. Just had a big first half, I am sure it will now be "Marcus Smart hype week" this week...
Vonleh is the best pf prospect imo. Randle is better at this point, but I just see Vonleh as having so much more potential.
So....Because Wiggins hasn't dominated, that's why he's ahead of Parker and Randle. That makes sense, because really, who wants players who dominate when you get ones who just stand on the perimeter and go up for alley oops and fastbreak dunks?
Dominating is overrated.
I bet a few 'NBA executives' would like to see Marcus Smart go #1 overall after tonight. It's a long season. This is going to be fun.